No. 21 Kentucky Sweeps Georgia in Athens
ATHENS, Ga. – The 21st-ranked Kentucky Wildcats took care of business on Thursday evening, taking a 3-0 (25-19, 25-17, 25-15) road victory from the Georgia Bulldogs in Stegeman Coliseum.
The Wildcats executed on offense, hitting at a .337 clip over the course of the match, highlighted by a red-hot .536 during the second set. 10 Wildcats registered points during the match with five accounting for five or more kills.
“I thought we received well,” said 11th-year head coach Craig Skinner. “Georgia tested us with some tough serves and we received well, which allowed us to kill the ball at a high rate. As the match went on our serving got better, and that’s really important when you’re on the road in a new stadium and new environment.”
“I thought our togetherness on the court was as good as it’s been in the last couple months and that’s important for us as we head into November.”
The victory propels the Wildcats to 17-7 and 10-2 in Southeastern conference action. Georgia falls to 5-18 on the season and 0-11 in league play. The Wildcats will face Tennessee next, facing the Volunteers in Knoxville on Sunday, Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. with the match set for broadcast on the SEC Network.
With the win, Skinner also continued a track record of excellence, coaching his team to its 11th-consecutive season with 17 wins or more. Skinner marks the 14th active coach to have such a streak.
The attack was spread out, with sophomore middle Kaz Brown pacing the way. The Waterloo, Iowa native racked up 12 kills on .625 hitting while tagging on four blocks. Next came classmate Darian Mack, who posted nine kills, six digs and two blocks. Junior Anni Thomasson had seven kills while earning double-figure digs with 11. Senior setter Morgan Bergren dished out 34 assists and added five kills and four digs of her own. Freshman Brooke Morgan had five kills of her own, hitting .625 and adding a block. Sophomore Emily Franklin had four kills on five swings and added a rejection.
Sophomore libero Ashley Dusek led the team with 13 digs while carving up the defense with a match and career-high four aces. Freshman McKenzie Watson logged two aces while notching four digs on the back line. Classmate Olivia Dailey had a pair of digs in the match. Senior Sara Schwarzwalder and sophomore Sharay Barnes teamed up for a block before each getting a kill in the third set.
Both sides were slow to start, trading points to 5-5. The Wildcats took a two-point lead on a dump from Bergren and an error before the Bulldogs proceeded to take four straight. Mack stopped the run, with two kills over three points, giving UK a 10-9 advantage. Kentucky then strung together a 4-2 run including back-to-back kills from Franklin and Brown to take a 14-11 lead. Georgia scored two more before a big swing from Morgan brought on the media timeout with a 15-13 Wildcat lead. The Bulldogs took three of the next four points to tie the match at 16-16. A kill from Mack followed by an ace and a kill from Thomasson made it 19-16, forcing the Bulldogs to call a timeout of their own. An ace from Dusek built the lead to four at 21-17, prompting Georgia to use its final timeout. Morgan closed out the first with a monster swing to seal it, 25-19.
Kentucky looked much sharper in the second, taking the opening five points on five kills and forcing an early Bulldog timeout. UK grew the lead to 7-1 on a well-placed shot from Brown before Bulldogs took three of the next four points. The Wildcats stuck with it, as a tip from Franklin gave UK a six-point lead at 12-6. Both sides traded points, with a block from Brown and
Morgan making it 20-14 for Kentucky. Thomasson clipped a Bulldog defender for the kill and a 22-16 lead to drive the Bulldogs to use their final timeout. Kentucky took three of the final four points, as a dump from Bergren secured the 25-17 set two victory.
Kentucky started strong again in the third, taking five of the first seven points. Despite trailing, the Bulldogs managed to claw back into it, tying the match at 8-8 before eventually taking a 10-8 lead on an ace, when UK called timeout. The Cats rallied back, taking five of the next seven points for the 14-12 advantage. The Bulldogs committed the error on the next play and called timeout as Kentucky led, 15-12. Dusek came out of the timeout firing, carving up the defense with three straight aces for an 18-12 lead, forcing Georgia’s final timeout. The Bulldogs would not go down quietly, stringing together three in a row and forcing Kentucky to call a timeout of its own. The Wildcats closed out the match on seven-straight points out of the timeout for the match-clinching 25-15 win.
By the Numbers
.337 – The Wildcats hit .337 in the match, their best hitting percentage in SEC play this season.
12 - Kaz Brown recorded a match-high 12 kills on .625 hitting.
11 – With the win, Kentucky volleyball has won at least 17 matches for 11 consecutive years.
8 – UK had eight aces in the match, its second-highest total in all matches this season.
.000 – The Wildcats held Georgia to .000 hitting in the final set.
Premier Sports Management announced its 10 finalists for the annual Senior CLASS Award on Friday, Oct. 30, with standout setter Morgan Bergren being one of the remaining candidates for the honor. Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to help select the winner, and fans are encouraged to vote on the Senior CLASS Award website through Dec. 7. Fans can vote once a day until the Dec. 7 cut off.
Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 11-12. UK is one of four sites selected for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in Omaha, Neb., from the Lexington Region. This marks the third time in five seasons Memorial Coliseum will host this premier volleyball event.